November 2009

Coast to Coast: Ka-BOOM BOOM!

On November 16 I posted video of the STS-129 Shuttle launch.

Less dramatic for most observers is the orbiter landing. No flame, no fury, just a powerless glide to a runway.

The lone exception is when the orbiter breaks the Sound Barrier. The human ear perceives it as a double sonic boom, first the nose and then the tail of the orbiter.

When I lived in California, the orbiter occasionally landed at Edwards Air Force Base. Living 100 miles away, I’d sometimes hear a faint “ka-boom boom” in the distance as the orbiter approached the runway.

Here in north Merritt Island, though, we’re about ten miles from the runway so we’re right in the crosshairs.

Atlantis landed Friday at 9:44 AM EST, and its flight path took it right in front of our house as it flew in from southeast to northwest, then made a barrel turn to come back in for a landing. I tried to film it, but the orbiter was so high it was impossible to find in the view finder. “Look for the falling rock,” was how my friend in the Astronaut Office described it.

I did record the double sonic booms for you to hear. Click here and crank up your computer speakers really loud to get the full effect!

The camcorder is pointed north towards Kennedy Space Center, five miles up the road. The runway is about ten miles slightly to the northwest. The orbiter was moving left to right above the camera frame, too small to locate in the viewfinder. Atlantis glided out over the ocean, made a U-turn around a virtual barrel in the sky, then came in to land from right to left.

Playing for Peanuts

I just finished watching a ten-part documentary series called Playing For Peanuts, which is about a team in the independent South Coast League. The league operated only one year, in 2007, and then folded.

The center of the story is Wally Backman. You might remember
he was hired to manage the Diamondbacks and fired four days later
due to a domestic problem that hit the papers. Backman was desperate to get back into the game, so he agreed to manage the South Georgia Peanuts.

Wally was wired with a mic for the entire season. He was combustible, he was controversial, he got suspended, he got fired, he got rehired. But he passionately loved the game and defended his players.

The backdrop for all this is the absolutely horrid conditions in this indy league. It had four teams, and one of the four lost its stadium lease after a week so it had to play on the road for the rest of the year. There was a drug controversy — again, involving the Peanuts — and as the financial losses mounted the players wound up having to be their own grounds crew.

Despite all this, the Peanuts somehow won the pennant.

The series was originally envisioned as ten 30-minute episodes, or 22 minutes without commercials, to run on regional sports networks. The producer issued the series on DVD. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. It was dramatic, it was funny, it was everything you’d want in a baseball documentary.

And if you’re looking for an Angels tie … The hitting coach was Larry Olenberger, the father of former Angels minor league pitcher Kasey Olenberger. You’ll see wearing Angels T-shirts and pictures of Kasey in Angels gear on his locker.

You can order the DVD through It’s $25 plus $5 for shipping. I love finding little gems like this no one has ever heard about. It’s a perfect gift for a baseball fan. 2009 Top 10 Prospects Report

Trevor Reckling
Left-handed pitcher Trevor Reckling is #1 on the 2009 Top 10 Prospects list.


The 2009 Top 10 Prospects report is now online. Click here to read the report on the web site.

The Top 10 are:

1. Trevor Reckling LHP
2. Garrett Richards RHP
3. Will Smith LHP
4. Hank Conger C
5. Mike Trout OF
6. Jordan Walden RHP
7. Mark Trumbo 1B-OF
8. Peter Bourjos OF
9. Randal Grichuk OF
10. Alexi Amarista 2B

Please feel free to post comments and feedback here.

Coast to Coast: A Launch Only a Space Geek Could Love

Would you get out of bed at 2 AM for a rocket launch?

That’s what we did last night. United Launch Alliance sent a communications satellite into orbit at 1:55 AM EST. The launch window opened at 12:50 AM but was delayed twice due to high winds at upper altitudes, so we got up at 12:30 AM and waited … and waited …

Click Here to watch video of the launch. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch. This was filmed from our driveway in north Merritt Island, about five miles from the Kennedy Space Center south gate.

As always, a reminder that sounds travels slower than light, which is why you don’t hear the roar of the engines until nearly a minute later.

Top 10 Prospects On Deck

I’m wrapping up the 2009 Top 10 Prospects report. I hope to publish it sometime tomorrow.

As a warmup, Click here to read previous Top 10 Prospects reports. I’ve written one every fall since 2001.

Last year’s list:

  • 1. Will Smith LHP
  • 2. Jordan Walden RHP
  • 3. Mark Trumbo 1B
  • 4. Hank Conger C
  • 5. Nick Adenhart RHP
  • 6. Ryan Chaffee RHP
  • 7. Peter Bourjos OF
  • 8. Kevin Jepsen RHP
  • 9. Matt Brown 3B-1B
  • 10. Luis Jimenez 3B

Five of those ten are on this year’s list.

Coast to Coast: Florida Today on FWBL Flop

Two articles in the November 23rd Florida Today about the collapse of the Florida Winter Baseball League.

Click here to read the article by sports editor Lee Nessel.

Click here to read the article by yours truly.

From what I’ve been able to find, Florida Today seems to be taking the lead on this story. Nothing in the Miami Herald or Orlando Sentinel, papers that are on top of this story geographically but so far seem to not know about it, or not care.

Coast to Coast: FWBL Folds

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been writing about six former Angels minor leaguers in a new circuit called the Florida Winter Baseball League.

Skeptics, including me, didn’t think the league would last long, but we never anticipated it would fold after only fifteen games.

As expertly covered by Mark DeCotis of Florida Today, the first paychecks bounced, and the league suspended operations.

I was asked by Central Florida News 13, the local cable TV station, to do a standup interview about the league folding. Why? Because I’m around and everyone else is gone.

Click Here to watch the news segments as they appeared throughout the evening. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

I’m writing more about this on my other site,, so head over there if you’re interested.

I may be doing a piece for the local paper too. I’ll post that link if/when it’s published.

This ‘N That

Former Orem Owlz outfielder Trevor Pippin is with the FWBL’s Miami Diamantes. He plays the outfield and pitches in relief.


Not many articles lately, but then there hasn’t been much to write about.

I wanted to let you know that I have been busy on Angels stuff.

In particular, I’ve been researching the annual Top 10 Prospects report. Unlike other fan sites who write these reports, I go out to see these players myself, and I talk quite a bit with people in the organization to find out what they think are the prospects’ good and bad points.

Some statheads claim you can’t talk to the people who actually watch the players because they’re biased. Well, all I can say is that when I talk to staff on background they’re pretty honest with me. I can read a line of stats as much as anyone else, but without the context they’re meaningless.

This year, I have an extra advantage, a manager with another organization who saw some of our prospects. His opinions confirmed some of mine, but his insight also caused me to drop someone I wanted to include.

Look for the article somewhere around Thanksgiving.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve been busy with the Florida Winter Baseball League. If that interests you, visit my other web site at

Six former Angels minor leaguers are in the FWBL. Stantrel Smith, Baron Short and Anthony Sullivan are here with the Space Coast Surge. Tyler Johnson and Trevor Pippin are down in Miami with the Diamantes. Chris Garcia is in Sanford with the Seminole County Naturals. We form somewhat of an Angels clique within the league, and FWBL management is well aware these are my kids. Their Surge teammates know there’s some sort of bond among us, although I’m not sure they know exactly what it is.

The Surge were at Seminole County this weekend. Chris Garcia homered off his former teammate, Baron Short. The next inning, I was walking past the Naturals dugout when Chris comes out to take his position at first base. He sees me and puts out his hand for a high five. I’m thinking, “Sure, but you just lit up Shorty.”

Now I know how the Weaver parents feel when Jared and Jeff square off.

For those of you who remember Trevor Pippin, he was an outfielder with Tempe and Orem. He’s still an outfielder with Miami, but he’s also been pitching in relief for the Diamantes. I mentioned it to some of his former coaches, and they recalled he’d pitched as an amateur before the Angels signed him.

The box score for Sunday’s Miami-Lake County game shows that Pip entered the game as a pinch-hitter for the designated hitter, which made him the DH, then he pitched in the bottom of the 8th. If the DH takes the field during a game, then his team may no longer use the DH and the pitcher must bat. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the DH becoming the pitcher.

Since the DH is eliminated once he takes the field, even as a pitcher, then once he’s relieved as a pitcher anyone who follows him on the mound would also have to bat. But what if he moves from pitcher to another position? I guess the relieving pitcher would have to bat in the slot of the guy the ex-DH replaced.

This is why I hate the DH.

Coast to Coast: STS-129 Launch

I went over to Titusville today to videotape the STS-129 launch. Click Here to watch the launch. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

Regarding the screaming kid in the background … Some parents turned loose their two-year old to play on the rocks down by the river. A couple minutes before launch, he throws his toy dump truck into the river, and as it floats away he starts screaming that he lost his dump truck. Being a two-year old, of course, nothing is going to make him happy, not even after someone fished out his dump truck. He kept screaming all the way through the launch. Gee, thanks.

A reminder when you watch the video that the speed of sound is roughly 1,100 feet per second. If you time from the moment of launch until you first hear the roar of the engines, we’re roughly about 10-12 miles from the launch pad.

You’ll also notice a tall crane between the pad and the Vehicle Assembly Building. That’s for a new platform that will one day carry Constellation to the launch pad. The future of Constellation, however, is up in the air, no pun intended.

An unmanned rocket was supposed to launch on November 14 but had a last-minute glitch, so it was rolled back to its assembly building. No ETA on that one.

Angels Historical Trivia

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been researching the early history of the Angels minor leaguers, which began in 1961 the same as the parent club.

We held a reunion in late September of surviving Statesville Owls players. I videotaped the event and hope to have it online in a few days.

I’m editing the video now and was reminded of what someone said at the table. I checked Google and, sure enough, it’s true.

Some of you may remember Ken Hunt, an Angels outfielder in 1961-1963.

It turns out he was the stepfather of child actor Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on The Munsters.

One of the alumni recalls Hunt saying, “My son makes more money than I do!”